Natural Wellbeing & Horticultural Therapy Services


For over 25 years the garden has been used as a resource by local residents, schools and community groups. St Mary’s Secret Garden has particular skills and experience in working with people and groups with support needs; such as people with learning disabilities, people on the autistic spectrum, people with experience of mental ill health, people with physical disabilities and people with other types of life changing long term health issues.

We feature in Grass Roots, the RHS Community Update, Issue 35 • Autumn 2018, in an article about the potential of community gardening as a remedy for better health and wellbeing. Find Growing Well on page 12.

We have hosted a range of events engaging with the local community and are seeking to develop a cultural and wellbeing programme centred on our showcase ‘Wish You Well’ garden to build on their success. The programme will operate through local partnerships and self-financing activities such as theatre, outdoor cinema and art exhibitions.

Therapeutic Services

Doctors, Physiotherapist and Occupational Therapists (OTs) have long recognised the therapeutic benefits of using gardening with their clients, and more recently social and therapeutic horticulture has emerged as an approach in its own right.

In 2011 an OT student did a placement with us and wrote a piece for OT News. She said, “Therapeutic horticulture can benefit occupational performance, health, wellbeing and social connectedness and promote independence and confidence.

“I was lucky enough to observe these benefits first-hand at St Mary’s, watching friendships blossom and seeing the satisfaction and confidence inspired by a hard day’s work in the garden.”

Read the full article here.

Therapeutic Placements

Users of these services are individuals who have disabilities and long-term health problems. The garden setting provides people with support needs the opportunity to become a valuable member of their community by running and maintaining this open access garden.

The garden also enables them to learn about horticulture and healthy living to be outdoors and socialising when they would otherwise be indoors and isolated. Tasks can be adapted by staff and supporting volunteers through their knowledge of gardening and an understanding of the clients’ occupational/vocational and therapeutic needs.

My pumpkin will be this big!
My pumpkin will be this big!

Logistics and Costs

The cost of the session will depend on the assessed support needs of the individual following a taster session and initial assessment.  It is usually of the order of £70 per day. Half days or shorter sessions can be arranged depending on the individual’s needs.

For more information and case studies, download the document Therapeutic Placements 2014

Previous Therapeutic Programmes

(No longer running)



Greening for Wellbeing

Greening for wellbeing no dates

Garden Social




Hackney Local Offer SEND (Special Education Needs & Disability)

Our Come Gardening Wellbeing Service is available to those aged 16 years or over who are able to access SEND or other personal budget.

Come Gardening Wellbeing Service is on Wednesday & Friday

Come Gardening half day session costs – £40
Come Gardening full day session costs – £70
Payment options are available – please contact Director

A referral is required – you may be referred by:

  • GPs or other health professionals
  •  a social worker
  • We accept referrals from individuals themselves (self-referrals)
  • Parents and carers may also refer to our services

Free taster sessions can be booked.

For more information see Hackney Local Offer (SEND) website

Mildmay Mission Hospital Training

We worked with Mildmay International’s UK hospital, a pioneering charitable HIV hospital, for over 15 years in delivering therapeutic horticultural sessions throughout the year as part of the rehabilitation and re-enablement of patients with HIV and cognitive impairments. In the autumn, we make chutneys with green tomatoes, pumpkin and beetroots. In the winter, we work in the greenhouse planting bubs for selling, and packing seeds in envelopes, and we make lavender bags. Coming to the garden can be the only opportunity for the participants in this project to leave the hospital and is the most exciting day of the week for them.

The ‘Growing Out’ project, was funded by Hackney Giving. Paula gave a successful funding bid presentation at the Hackney Giving Live launch event in February 2014 – you can see the video here. She followed this up six months later with a second progress report presentation on the early stages of the project – see the second video here.

Our final report An evaluation of the ‘Growing Out’ project at St Mary’s Secret Garden: September 2014 – January 2015 (docx file, 2.1Mb) can be downloaded from the Our Impact section of this website.